Quick Roundup 339

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Well! Who'd have known that getting a tooth extracted could take so much out of a man?

I went in to work as usual yesterday morning, took the short walk to the oral surgeon, and learned (not to my surprise) that the tooth had to go sooner rather than later. That, and my desire to get it over with found me returning to the office after lunchtime to get that show on the road. A coworker drove me home and, except for a couple of email checks and half of a movie, I slept soundly.

Or was it the lingering effects of the anesthetic that kept me in la-la land? One of the tips on the patient post-op instructions was "Don't make any important decisions. You may change your mind the next day." Uh-huh! That anesthetic was pretty potent stuff, given my general loopiness when I was awake.

Whatever the case, it was with the aid of science that I avoided being aware of what would have otherwise been a very painful ordeal, and now, with the aid of technology, that I present the following roundup of very thought-provoking posts.

How NOT to Persuade the Merely Mistaken or Ignorant

If you read nothing else today, drop whatever you're doing and read Monica's reaction to a particularly bad post by the economist George Reisman that is addressed to environmentalists. Her central message is something that any serious intellectual activist should remember:

I think it's helpful for people to try to put themselves in the mindset they were in before they discovered Objectivism. Seriously -- just try remembering what it was like back then. Personally, as an environmentally informed person, property rights was a difficult thing for me to get my brain around three or four years ago. I still struggle with it. ...


[I]f you want to make Objectivism appeal to people, you have to appeal to their values. Obviously we can't appeal to irrational values or water down the message or try to make everyone happy. Still, I'd like to see more appeals to values rather than the ranting. I've been very impressed with Yaron Brook and Onkhar Ghate's videos on YouTube. They strike me as people that are very respectful of others even if they disagree with a person's views.

I think we owe it to ourselves to reach out to non-Objectivists in the politest ways possible, without watering down the message – but that means a minimum of online rants, rhetorical questions, and general snarkiness directed at an entire group of people who label themselves a certain way. I’m not perfect and I’ve fallen into this trap on occasion, no doubt, particularly in my early blogging – but I’m going to try to avoid it in the future. The world is in serious trouble. The culture needs to be changed to a thinking culture. What can we do to accomplish that? Rants are fun and cathartic, but what is the purpose of them? Online, you can't guarantee that your entire audience is Objectivist. (In fact, one hopes it isn’t.) And such preaching usually has a predictable result: people will tune you out. [bold and link added]
This is an excellent application of principles I have written about before to a specific example.

My thanks go to Monica for having taken the time to post this. As I once put it, "There are times to express moral condemnation, but the opening of an intellectual discussion is not one of them." That would also go for slamming an entire intellectual stand that your intellectual opponent may not hold consistently or whose full implications he may not realize.

(And if an opponent is dishonest or beyond reach, why waste time pretending that he is even open to debate?)

The Nihilism of George Carlin

I have to admit not even knowing who George Carlin was until his recent death. And, after hearing him lauded as a countercultural icon, I suspected that I wouldn't find him that funny.

That suspicion was confirmed when I recently viewed a couple of videos of him, including one where he made slams --intelligent I will admit -- against religion.

"The man's a damned hippie!" was my gut reaction. I am very averse to anything that smacks of the counterculture, and his whole "vibe" ruined for me even his good jokes. Joseph Kellard, it seems, would agree with me. After admitting that Carlin had his comedic merits, Kellard weighs in with this:
[M]ostly I could not watch Carlin because he spewed a seething hatred toward man as such. Despite being an atheist who understood the evils of religion, this view was part of his broader perspective that human beings are evil. Apparently, Carlin never let go of the idea of Original Sin....
This is more than just a gut reaction on his part, though.

Obama's Promise to Be Unjust

Myrhaf comments at length on something that has bothered me ever since I heard it: Obama's "promise" not to question anyone's patriotism.

He won't question the patriotism of a man who served in Vietnam and spent six years as a POW. That's awfully big of Obama. In return, any mention of the following is off limits: Obama's communist father; his communist mentor, Frank Marshall Davis; his terrorist friends, William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn; his days as a "community organizer," which some define as a leftist rabble rouser; his 20-year relationship with spiritual mentor and anti-American preacher, Jeremiah Wright; his teaching the ideas of leftist radical Saul Alinski; his wife's anti-American statements; his flag pin controversy; his reluctance to hold his hand over his heart during the National Anthem. Bringing up any of these could come under heading, "questioning his patriotism." It's not a bad deal for Obama.

But his high-mindedness is specious because he has questioned the patriotism of others....
Smuggled in is the poisonous, implicit, anti-mind, central premise of the Left: That claiming certainty -- particularly moral certainty -- based on rational thought is a mortal sin.

I'd translate Obama's blather this way: "How do you know what America even is, let alone what someone someone else really thinks when all you have is what he says and does to go on, let alone whether you really can tell whether what you think he says is good (whatever that means) for America?" No. This doesn't make sense, nor is it supposed to, but Myrhaf does an excellent job of showing us what this attack on our moral certainty is supposed to accomplish.

This is simply the argument from intimidation with a disgustingly sweet coating, and it is moral certainty that is being cast as prejudice.

Quote of the Day

I don't intend to watch the movie she reviewed, but I enjoyed what Jennifer Snow had to say about about the intellectual efforts of today's self-proclaimed champions of culture and the intellect (aka, "uncultured boobs"):
[This movie] was a prime example of what happens when shallow uncultured boobs attempt to be "deep", "modern" or "controversial": you get a disgusting perverted retread of three-hundred-year-old philosophical theories that are none of those things.
Ah! Wanted has served a useful purpose! Time to move on....

-- CAV


Inspector said...

What's so bad about George Reisman's post?

This part here especially:

If your motivation in calling yourself an environmentalist is merely such things as that you like to see flowers bloom on open meadows, and love trees, whales, and polar bears, and the like, then you owe it to yourself to put as much intellectual and moral distance as possible between you and those who advocate mass impoverishment and mass death.

The first step you need to take is to stop using the same word “environmentalist” to describe both them and you. So long as you do use the same word, people cannot help but think of you all in the same terms.

Don’t think you can solve the problem by calling yourself a “free-market environmentalist.” That’s like calling yourself a “free-market Communist” or a “free-market Nazi.” They’re contradictions in terms.

I agree with 100%.

I think his post is directed at someone who understands and accepts laissez-faire capitalism, is at least somewhat familiar with the shenanigans of environmentalists, and is wondering whether environmentalism has any hidden merits at all or should be given any quarter or if one should self-identify as any form of the word. The answer - which you and I know - is clearly an emphatic "no" on all counts - not even a little bit.

It doesn't sound like he is addressing actual environmentalists so much as using a rhetorical device. As in "This is John Galt Speaking," wherein there was frequent addressing of people with certain views, but the actual intended audience was not who was being directly addressed. Those people wouldn't be capable of comprehending what was said said on any level but terror and the speaker knew it.

That's why I think Reisman's article doesn't address environmentalists. As you said, "if an opponent is dishonest or beyond reach, why waste time pretending that he is even open to debate?"

Gus Van Horn said...

"I think his post is directed at someone who understands and accepts laissez-faire capitalism, is at least somewhat familiar with the shenanigans of environmentalists, and is wondering whether environmentalism has any hidden merits at all or should be given any quarter or if one should self-identify as any form of the word. The answer - which you and I know - is clearly an emphatic 'no' on all counts - not even a little bit."

I don't agree that his audience is so restricted as you do.

On the one hand, yes. Advocates of laissez-faire capitalism should have nothing to do with environmentalism.

On the other hand if, as Reisman puts it a so-called "free market environmentalist, "come[s] back with the argument that if we uphold individual freedom, our great grandchildren will have to live in an uninhabitable planet," [my bold] then how can we say that his target audience "understands and accepts laissez-faire capitalism"?

Someone who fully grasps laissez-faire would see that NOTHING excuses a government failing to respect individual rights. He would also be extremely suspicious, as a result, of the entire environmentalist agenda which, as far as I can tell, doesn't feature a single measure that doesn't violate individual rights.

Reisman cannot be addressing the audience you think he is, and the proper way to address a rational, but ignorant or confused audience is to show, not to tell.

Vigilis said...

"Who'd have known that getting a tooth extracted could take so much out of a man?"

Gus, sounds like a 3rd molar to me.

Very perplexing, however, considering the above average dentition of your dual heritages (native American and submariner).

Not to be too personal, has the sub navy stopped pulling 3rd molars as prophylaxis?


Jennifer Snow said...

Thanks for the plug, Gus, but I was talking about the graphic novel that the movie is based on in that sentence. The movie, while still grim, is not NEARLY as bad as the graphic novel, which Ayn Rand would probably describe as "a bucket of slime emptied in public" or something like that.

It was the kind of "art" that people like to use the term "unflinching" about . . . which usually means that any decent person WOULD be flinching at this point.

Just wanted to clear that up. Graphic novel: evil. Movie: Mediocre.

Gus Van Horn said...


No. This was a front tooth, neighboring one which got knocked completely out of my head when I was about eight -- but was saved by my mother's presence of mind and a small-town dentist.

I slipped on the smooth, oil-coated pavement in a neighbor's garage and my few (but major) dental troubles have resulted from that ever since.

I'm wearing a temporary dental appliance now, and probably will until some bone grafting gets done and it can be replaced by an implant.


Thanks for the clarification, but shoot-'em-ups are mostly all the same to me.

I enjoyed Iron Man, which you also reviewed, but I get the impression it was a step above Wanted, and the former is about as shoot-'em-up as I usually get.


Joseph Kellard said...


Thanks for linking to my post on Carlin the nihilist.

Joseph Kellard

Gus Van Horn said...


And THANK YOU for doing something I hadn't the stomach for!